Like every kid, I started with soccer when I was 3 or 4. Encouraging soccer is every parent's strategy to getting some sleep at night -- the kids run around and exhaust themselves, so the parents are actually able to get a good night's sleep for once. When I was 5, my parents were like: "Hey! We're going to sign you up for baseball." I didn't want to, but my dad's from Boston -- a big Red Sox fan -- so it crushed him that I didn't want to play baseball. I remember my mom saying to me: "Please, for your dad's sake, will you just go to one T-ball practice? If you hate it, we'll never ask you to play again." So I went to the practice, and when I got home I told my mom, I love baseball.
When I was in kindergarten or first grade, we moved from Dallas to Houston, and I kept liking baseball more and more. I was really fortunate: My parents were supportive of whatever sport I wanted to play, and I always wanted to play baseball. My dad would take me to the cage anytime I wanted, and we built a soft-toss net in the garage too.
Growing up, I played basketball as well. On our cul-de-sac, we played basketball during basketball season, football during football season and, of course, baseball during baseball season. I have a lot of good memories from those pickup games from when I was younger.
The middle school days
I played football in seventh and eighth grade, but I never really got into it. I was okay at it, but we had a lot of good players. I was on the second unit and I had fun doing it, but by eighth grade, it was time to choose. Do I want to play football, which I like but don't love and am an average player? Or do I want to focus on baseball, which I love and am better at? So I chose baseball. And it wasn't like I chose it thinking that I could play in college or anything. I chose it because I liked it more. It was that simple. It was the Branch Crossing Junior High team, and I was good but not the best. I was one of the better players there, but when you're playing select ball, you're competing against guys from all over Houston. There were a lot of good players in our area. When you play baseball in junior high, all you want to do is play baseball in high school. That's the goal.
The high school years
I think I first realized I had college potential my sophomore year at The Woodlands High School. After ninth grade, I knew I had to really commit myself: extra time in the weight room, sprints, more ground balls, more cage time. I took that to heart. That was the turning point for me. It went from me just showing up at practice to me doing everything I could think to do to get better. I played summer ball that year, and I had a really good year playing against guys who already had college scholarships. Holding my own there showed me a light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to compete and play well against seniors. I didn't dominate, but I kept improving. Then sophomore year, all of our starters either went pro or went to D1 programs -- we had Kyle Drabek, who was unbelievable -- and we were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point. I remember thinking that I might have pro potential my senior year. Man, that year was awesome. We were picked to win the state championship from day one. But we'd lost with talented teams the prior three years, so there was definitely some pressure on us, especially with guys like Drabek and a few others who had already committed to big college programs. Long story short, we won the championship. We had some close calls, lots of one-run games, so it was really exciting.
Even just thinking back, those games were the biggest things in your life. Each year, it was a huge deal for us. And even now, almost 10 years later, the guys from those teams are my best friends.